Most of you know that our Eating the Word of God curriculum has been published in three languages:
• Enkinosata Ororei le Nkai (in Maa)
• Kujilisha kwa Neno La Mungu (in KiSwahili)
• Akinyam Akiroit a Akuj (in NgaTurkana)
(Maa, the language of the Maasai, is spoken in Kenya and Tanzania. KiSwahili is the primary second language of most Kenyans and Tanzanians, and is spoken across East Africa. NgaTurkana is the language of the Turkana people, who live primarily in Kenya’s northwest, between Lake Turkana and Uganda.)
Just to remind you, this is the textbook for the Eating the Word of God course of the Community Christian Bible Training Institute (CCBTI; there are three branch campuses). The highfalutin academic title would be “Equipping Congregations for Biblical Understanding,” but we keep it simple. The books are also used for teaching grass-roots level seminars.
Today some missionaries to the Tonga in Zambia (in Southern Africa) have asked if they can adapt our materials for the Tonga churches. (We said “yes,” of course.)
Last month we shared with you our team’s vision — unhindered disciple-making — and new mission statement: “to be a catalyst of God’s Kingdom Expansion in Kenya and the world through our own actions and partnerships with CCC and others.” (“CCC” is the Community Christian Churches with whom we partner — these congregations now number well over 200.) Then we listed the first four of our eight key values which provide the foundation for our mission strategies — Christ-centered, Prayer-powered, Empowerment of nationals, Holistic Ministries. Our other key values are Partnership, Church-focused, Community, and Culturally Appropriate.
To read more, including an update on our Community Christian Bible Training Institute (CCBTI) — now expanded to three campuses! — here is a pdf copy of June’s newsletter.
Christ’s Kingdom in Kenya is continuing to expand and deepen in so many exciting ways! … Since our last newsletter, we have witnessed baptisms, heard of many other baptisms and new church plants by our national co-workers, planted two new branches of our Community Christian Bible Training Institute (CCBTI), and have our Discipleship Training Institute (DTI) on track to have two sessions this year instead of just one.
Our missionary team has grown during this term — we are now twelve adults and twelve children. As part of this time of growth, we have been working on developing a new vision and strategy. Our team vision is simple — unhindered disciple-making. To read more, including about these pictures, here is a pdf version of our latest newsletter.
For a copy of the newsletter with better image resolution for printing, drop us a line.
Greetings from Kenya!
It is a wonderful privilege to serve as a co-minister of reconciliation of Christ Jesus our Lord and friend. We would love to hear what God is doing through and around you in the place God has you. To read a sample of a few of things God is doing through and around us in Kenya and to see a few pictures, here is a pdf copy of our latest newsletter. If you are on our postal mailing list, you should receive a hard-copy soon.
(If you want a higher resolution copy for printing, let us know.)
The parable of the goat
We often emphasize the giving of tithes and offerings and neglect the broader and deeper aspects of total Christian stewardship.
Christian stewardship is like a goat. Generous giving (often expressed in tithes and offerings) is the skin of the goat. The only way to have a large, healthy goat skin is to have a full-grown healthy goat. If the goat-skin is too small, or full of holes, that is a clear indication either that the goat is still immature or that it is malnourished or sick. When it seems that the giving of tithes and offerings is too little to meet the needs of the congregation, that is a clear sign that the “goat” of stewardship needs some attention. …
One of our favorite ministry opportunities has always been time spent with our DTS (Discipleship Training School). In order to avoid confusion with the similar ministries of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) that use the same name, we just changed the name to Discipleship Training Institute (DTI).
We’ve just spent a week out in the bush with the DTI. Ruth has written a delightful blog post that touches on our time there. And check back here later for another update.
Visit our Ministry page for more details about the DTI (you’ll need to scroll down). You can also revisit our older post, “Discipleship Training School reborn“, read the full story of that rebirth (.pdf file), or browse the “Reader’s Digest” version of that story (shorter .pdf).
There are different phases of ministry. Missionary pioneers begin with the Planting phase: proclaiming the gospel, making disciples, and planting new churches. In the late 1970s, CMF was kicked out of Ethiopia by the new communist dictatorship. Some of the CMF-Ethiopia team came to Kenya, starting pioneering church planting work among the unreached Maasai and Turkana. When we affiliated with CMF in 2003, the ministry had reached the Parenting phase. As a result of CMF’s work, today there are strong churches in both Kenya and Ethiopia.
Moreover, our team is blessed to have entered the Partnering phase of ministry with the Community Christian Churches of Kenya. At the end of 2015, there were 201 congregations. As of this writing (April 2016), there are at least three new church plants for a total of 204.
Check out this short and exciting video, in which our teammate Joe Cluff explains what’s going on:
Cross-cultural life & work are exhilarating. Asking what it means, practically speaking, to live with Jesus from the view point of a different language and culture can open your eyes to the teachings of Scripture in new and profound ways. We have found this to be especially true as we have struggled with culturally relevant and biblically faithful ways to teach stewardship.
In many western contexts, teaching on stewardship can be summarized like this:
That stuff you think you own? It’s not really yours; it’s God’s. So treat “your” resources accordingly.
This approach captures part – but not all – of the biblical teaching on stewardship. But in East African contexts, as soon as you say “it’s not really yours” you’ve lost your audience and thrown in the towel. The Maasai have a proverb that explains this: The cow says, “don’t lend me. Just give me away.” This is because the cow knows that if it is lent, it will not be well cared for. Only when there is ownership is there also proper stewardship. We also see this in the teaching of Jesus in John 10.12-13.
The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and flees. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. He runs away because he is only a hired hand and has no concern for the sheep.
Only when you can say “it is mine” or “it is ours” can stewardship be faithfully practiced. There is another Maasai proverb that emphasizes this: All things which their owners care for endure. The twofold implication (which is clear in the Maa) is that only owners properly care for possessions and only proper stewardship enables things to last.
There is a place to teach that stewardship is the management of someone else’s resources. (See, for example, Matthew 25.14-3.) But it is also necessary to recognize we are the recipients of God’s gifts. What God has given you is now yours.
ORE TINIATA MENYE, MIMURATA
Another Maasai cultural proverb suggests an alternative approach to the traditional western interpretation. Now if you have a father, it observes, you’re not really circumcised. For many tribes in East Africa, including the Maasai, boys are ritually circumcised during adolescence. This event marks a major transition. No longer a boy, the circumcised male is now a warrior and a man. So the proverb is saying that if your father is still alive, it is as if you are still a boy. Culturally, if your father is alive, it’s as though you are still a youth.
Why is this? Because you show natural respect for your old father. You honor him by consulting with him before you so much as a sell a goat to obtain school fees for your children. Are you 60 and a grandfather? If your dad is still alive, you will consult with him before you sell a goat to obtain school fees for your grandchildren.
Traditionally this is NOT abusive patriarchy. It is not just that the old man remains the nominal head of the extended family. Rather, he is recognized to have wisdom. He can guide the younger generations in the best way forward. Being past the point of self-seeking desire, he has a broader perspective about what is best for the whole family. The primary interest of the old man is in the well-being of his whole family. So he will advise them accordingly. He receives enkanyit (proper respect and honor) and gives in return counsel and blessing.
(Western cultures used to practice something similar. We called it “filial piety.”)
For those of us who follow Jesus, we know that our Father Papa God is alive. This does not mean we are not responsible adults. It DOES mean we should invite God into the process as we consider the management of our resources.
That stuff you own? It really is yours. But your Father in heaven is very much alive. Will you consult with him about how you use your resources?
[Updated September 2018: We just learned the second proverb mentioned above.]
We missionaries are often asked to describe our typical day. That may be the hardest question we’re ever asked. We tend to have multiple responsibilities in multiple locations and vocational ministry can be full of surprises. But we do understand why the question is asked. So since it has been awhile since we’ve shared a general ministry summary about our day-to-day and month-to-month work, we thought it might be helpful to some of you for us to do that. So if you’re interested, please read our update here.
Emaisisi Olaitoriani lang!
“Let us all praise our Lord together!”
We have some wonderful news to share with you about the ministry among the Maasai, especially concerning the Discipleship Training School (DTS). Read the full update here. We are also in the process of putting together a website just for the DTS. We will let you know when that is available.
(If you prefer a “reader’s digest” version, a shorter DTS update is also available.)
Or, if you prefer, the “reader’s digest” version is available here.
If you are interested in partnering with the DTS, visit cmfi.org/jrbarron to learn more.